The Opposition’s problem of plenty 

Last Updated 24 March 2019, 16:30 IST

A problem of plenty ails India's Opposition. Efforts to forge a grand, national-level alliance have failed to take off despite there being an all-round agreement about the primary goal of foiling an aggressive Narendra Modi re-election bid.

One of the reasons for the failure is the clash between ambitious leaders.

A surfeit of claimants from Mamata Banerjee to Mayawati to Chandrababu Naidu, each reportedly nursing prime ministerial ambitions, makes the question of leadership in the Opposition look undecided.

Therefore, when BSP chief Mayawati tweeted on March 20 that she was not an MLA or MLC when she became chief minister for the first time in 1995 while explaining why she wasn't contesting the Lok Sabha polls, the biggest problem in the Opposition ranks had once again come to the fore.

Among those championing Mayawati is Andhra Pradesh's Pawan Kalyan of the Jana Sena, who has announced a tie-up with her party in the southern state.

In the past, Haryana's Indian National Lok Dal and JD(S) have also hailed Mayawati as a future PM.

In August 2018, Pawar, who has since decided not to fight the polls, had said that former Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, JD(S)'s Deve Gowda and he were the three senior leaders who could unite the Opposition.

Incidentally, he had described all three as "leaders with no ambition to become the prime minister".

Not surprisingly, the BJP has repeatedly taken to asking who the Opposition PM candidate is — a question that seems to hang like Damocles' sword over the efforts to push Modi and the BJP back.

For example, when TMC's Mamata Banerjee organised a united Opposition rally in Kolkata in January 2019, the BJP had mocked the stellar gathering on the stage saying all of them had ambitions of becoming prime minister.

While the Congress has tried to evade a direct reply to the question of who will be prime minister if the Opposition wins, regional parties have unabashedly batted for their leaders.

Barring DMK's M K Stalin and some support from the JD(S), no other regional party has supported the idea of Rahul Gandhi as the PM candidate.

In 2018, RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s son, Tejashwi Yadav, said Rahul is not the only leader from the Opposition in the race for the post.

He had named leaders like Banerjee, Naidu, Nationalist Pawar and Mayawati, and made it clear that the RJD will support anyone named as the united Opposition's PM candidate.

In January 2019, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav gave a vague answer when asked about the PM issue: "As far as the leadership issue is concerned, it is actually the people who decide it... you will see, in time to come, how many choices we have."

In West Bengal, Banerjee is routinely projected by TMC leaders as the main challenger to Modi and BJP's "divisive politics".

Banerjee, whose party could emerge as the third largest after the Congress and the BJP in 2019, may be said to have more reasons to nurse this ambition than others.

(Published 24 March 2019, 14:56 IST)

Follow us on